There is no doubt that we all understand the importance of sleep for high school athletes.
High school athletes are constantly searching for techniques that will improve performance and increase their chances of success. Many go to great lengths and expense to raise the levels by even the smallest of percentages.
Unfortunately, sleep is something that is not fully maximized by athletes. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that teens get 9 ¼ hours of sleep per night. But most teens don’t get that much sleep as this study found that only 15% reported sleeping 8 ½ hours on school nights.
Without proper sleep, high school athletes will have a harder time concentrating on their studies and their athletic performance will suffer. Unlike training programs that help boost speed, endurance or build muscle, the benefits of sleep have generally been hard to measure – even though the benefits of having a good night’s sleep can be “felt”.
But what if there was a technique that came naturally to all that would bring about improvements we need to make the best of our high school glory years?
Being a Student Athlete Is Tough and Can Be Very Stressful.
When we are not sleeping well, it has been well, documented that your stress levels will increase. Even though dealing with stress as a high school athlete can be a good thing, just stop for a second and think about all the stress triggers you go through, especially when you had no sleep:
- The sound of that annoyingly loud alarm clock that you endure each early weekday morning…
- The mental strain your brain must push through while trying hard to learn something relevant during class on limited sleep…
- The stress of balancing life at home, at school, and both on and off the field of play while grinding towards your goals, day in and day out…
- The fight you must endure against the stereotype of just be another jock while combating the resentment of not having a way to showcase your athletic, academic and community accomplishments…
While on limited sleep, the mental and physical strain that we put our bodies through can have deep consequences, particularly when you need to be at your best athletically, academically and socially.
Don’t believe me? Here are the stats:
- About 10-15% of student athletes are at risk of developing mental health issues due to the increased stress and anxiety of participating in a sport.
- About 55% of high school students are athletes, and between 23% and 40% of all high school students report feelings of stress, depression or anxiety.
- Participation in 3 or more team sports and/or investing 7 or more hours per week to sport did not have the same benefits as moderate exercise. Some increased scores for depression and anxiety.
And if getting to College or University at the next level is your goal, nearly 95% of collegiate athlete males and 86% of females admit they feel overwhelmed.
Benefits of Sleep
The importance of sleep for high school athletes taken from the Elite Sports & Performance, Sleep Science and Technology, can be summed up with the 5 following benefits, which include:
- Improved reaction times
- Reduced injury rates, improved overall health
- Longer playing careers
- Better accuracy, faster sprint times
- Fewer mental errors
High school athletes and coaches have spent endless hours following programs in pursuit of everything on this list. So why not address them all through improving your sleeping patterns?
Having established the importance of sleep, the natural next step is, of course, to monitor your sleep pattern to ensure you gain the maximum benefit possible.
Tips To Improve Sleep & Develop Health Sleep Patterns
Now that we have established the importance of having good sleep and the benefits of doing so, here is a list of ideas on how to improve sleep and develop healthy sleeping patterns:
- Keep a consistent sleep schedule and try to wake up at the same time on the weekends as you do weekdays.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol, as both can lead to less restful sleep.
- Develop healthy ways to manage stress.
- Exercise should take place earlier in the day, no later than 3-4 hours before bedtime.
- Nap if feeling drowsy, but for no longer than 30 minutes.
Another important tip that may need further explanation is to remove any electronics, including your TV, cell phone and laptop from your bedroom. Furthermore, electronic devices like cell phones, smartphones and tablets activate arousing neurons within the brain, preventing us from feeling sleepy.
Just because your favorite celebrity or professional athlete posted a new Snapchat story, keeping your notifications on up until bedtime and keeping devices in your sleeping environment (leading to increased access) not only affects your ability to fall asleep, but the quality of the sleep you achieve by disrupting the body’s production of melatonin, which is the sleep-inducing hormone.
Turn Your Cell Phone Into A Sleep Maker
If having your cell phone beside you is a must, here are some further tips, apps and resources to help improve your sleep, all from your smartphone:
- Put your cell phone on “Do Not Disturb” – Both the iPhone and Andriod devices have this feature under its menu settings. You can also schedule when the “Do Not Disturb” feature enables and disables by giving inputting the time you want to enable and disable this feature (i.e. enable every day at 11pm and disable at 7am).
- Use the iOS “Night Shift” feature or Android’s “Blue Light Filter” – Take advantage of these iOS and Android features, which will automatically adjust the colour of a device’s screen, based on the time of day and where you are. For example, you can set what time in the evening or at night the phone will start to remove some of the blue light from your screen, which has been shown to affect the body’s natural sleep cycle.
- Download the Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock app – Sleep Cycle is an intelligent alarm clock that analyzes your sleep (as well as what sleeping phase you are in) including your snoring and wakes you in the lightest sleep phase – the natural way to wake up feeling rested and relaxed.
- Wear a Fitbit watch that analyzes your sleep – Fitbit helps you better understand your sleep patterns and quality through a range of sleeping tools. If you use Fitbit Alta HR, Fitbit Blaze, or Fitbit Charge 2 as of July 2017 to track your sleep, you’ll see a record of the sleep stages you cycle through at night. You can then use this data to better understand your sleeping habits and recall why you one night of sleep was better or worse off than the other.
- Check out Metrifit.com – If you are a coach or athletic director for a school team, Metrifit is an athlete monitoring system that gathers subjective and objective information from both coaches and athletes to drive behavior modification and improvement through insights modeled on descriptive and predictive analytics. Part of their daily questionnaire asks athletes about their sleep quality and their sleep duration with further information sought when sleep is not optimal. This insight is important as optimum sleep duration can vary between team members and individuals. What Metrifit looks for is a change or deviation from normal sleep patterns and also co-relation between sleep and other important factors such as mood, health, energy levels and stress. Keeping track of these key factors and how they influence each other is a core part of athlete monitoring within Metrifit where this data can then be used to better coach the athlete towards peak performance.
The Importance Of Sleep For High School Athletes
So to start, if you have not done so already, be sure to create your profile on Classlete.com for more access and begin your journey to balancing school, sports, and your social life today.
If you are a high school student athlete, know of one or are a parent or teacher, sign up for our email newsletter by clicking here and you will get a free download of a sports specific workout co-created with the strength and conditioning coaches at Grunt Performance to help you dominate the sport you love playing.
Join us on this journey as we are committed to supporting and helping the next generation of student athletes become the top of their class both on and off the field.
-The Classlete Team